Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

Yay for Church!

Well, it's about 11 and a quarter am as I'm typing this, which means most of you out there have just headed off to church. I, however, have already gone to church, come back home, made and ate breakfast (double fried egg sandwich with Beaver Sweet Hot Mustard) and wasted an hour or so online. For those of you who don't know, I work at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Spokane. I am a music minitries intern which means I come down for a few hours during the week and attend the worship planning meeting, do filing, do some computer work and play guitar on Sunday morning. Quite early Sunday morning, I might add. The contemporary service at 1st Pres, where most of my guitar playing is done, starts at 8:30 in the morning! This means that I have to be at the church by 7:30 which means I leave my apartment a little before 7 which means I'm awake by 6. Boy, the 11th hour is sounding nice now. 1st Pres Spokane has always had an 11 o'clock service and a 9:45 education hour, neither of which could be moved. When the contemporary service was added, many many years ago, 8:30 was the only time available. Now the early (contemporary) service has about twice the attendance of the later (traditional service) and it is starting to seem odd that this contemporary service is so early in the morning. Anywho...

The church is also without a head pastor and in a time of transition. Also, one member of the church is the scholar and musician Harold Best, a former professor at Wheaton and one of the formost authors on worship reform in the country. Also, there are several traditions that come along with being an old and large (for Spokane standards) church, such as the anual Handel's Messiah sing along which has been going on for well over 100 years. Kind of wild place, huh? It's definitely different from 1st Pres Granada Hills. At first I was worried that interning in another 1st Pres I wouldn't really learn that much or have many new experiences, but I can already tell that I was wrong on that. One more anywho...

I've started working on a journal on the things I believe about worship in general and music in specific and I think I'm going to start posting pieces of that journal on my blog. The purpose of this is not to try to sway others to my position but just the opposite; I want to create an open forum on the nature of worship and the use of music in worship so I can come to a better understanding of my responsibility as a musician in the church. In the last several years of college I have found many of my preconcieved notions on worship and music challenged for the better, and I would like to continue that trend. Look for the first post in the series soon. I look foward to your comments.


Confessions of an Undecided Voter

Well, I'm now 24 years old and this election year is the first time I've registered to vote. There's only one problem: I have no idea who to vote for. I've been hearing a lot of stories on NPR the last couple of days about undecided voters and have realized that I am just about as undecided as one can get. Here's what I understand and believe about politics for now:

There are two basic political choices, 1. Conservative or 2. Liberal.
1. Conservative- As I understand it, conservative politics tries to keep the state as solid and steady as it can so people within the state can live, work, buy things and form private groups to help their fellow citizens. A conservative government isn't supposed to help people with their problems, it is supposed to create an environment in which people can help each other.
The problem with conservativism-Conservatinism seems like a good idea to me, but the problem is that most conservatives seem to leave out the 'helping other citizens' part. Modern conservatism seems to be an every-man-for-himself kind of institution.

2. Liberal- As I understand it, liberal politics wants to set up the state as a social institution in order to help citizens. In a perfect liberal government the state would take on the responsibility for the welfare of its citizens so individual groups won't have to.
The problem with liberalism- The country is so big and has so many different types of people with different types of need that it would be impossible to formulate a government that could take care of all its citizens. America seems to diverse to have an effective liberal government.

My current political belief:
It seems to me that it would be best to have a conservative national government to maintain the stability of the nation but liberal local governments to meet the needs of smaller groups citizens. A smaller local government would be more dynamic than a large federal government. Ideally I would vote conservative for President and then vote increasingly liberal down to the local level.

The problem with my current political belief:
There is no legitimately conservative option in this year's election. Pandering to special interests and corporations with deep pockets and trying to force democracy onto parts of the world which may not need it or be ready for it is not conservative. My wife Jeni was a member of Young Republicans in high school but turned down membership in the College Republicans this year because she feels that Bush has turned his back on the Republican ideal.

On a local level, I have only been in Washington for a short time and don't really know what would be best for the state. I don't just want to blindly vote a liberal ticket, because I don;t know if the liberals here would actually do what is best for the state.

Other assorted problems:

The Issues- When it comes to "the issues" I tend to agree more with the liberals. I am for gun control, against the death penalty and for scientific research. But I am against abortion and I don't think I'm too thrilled about gay marriage. These are my personal beliefs, I don't know if they are my political ones yet or not.

Religious Beliefs- I am a Christian and this is important to me. However, I don't feel comfortable aligning myself with the Republican party because I don't feel comfortable with their treatment of Christianity. I don't feel comfortable with the Democratic party because of the apparent lack of any sort of faith at all.

My thoughts on Bush and Kerry- I don't like President Bush. He seems cocky, arrogant, close-minded and hypocritical. (I do not mean hypocritical about his faith, I mean about his political statements. Here's a statement from his website: "Reform Congressional Oversight - President Bush will work with Congress to restructure and strengthen legislative oversight of intelligence and homeland security." Where was Congress when Bush declared war? There was no legislative oversight applied to the decision to go to war in Iraq when it would have been inconvenient to his own agenda. Now that the ball is rolling on the "War on Terror" he wants to bring Congress back in. I wonder how much power Congress will have in the future if they try to check the President's power.)
I don't like Bush, but Kerry doesn't give me the warm-fuzzies either. In fact, Kerry gives me nothing at all. I do not know what to think of him as a candidate. If you take away the fact that he's not Bush, he doesn't really seem to have anything else going for him.

Look at me, I'm my own personal swing state! Give me a push!
Well, there it is. Whoever is reading this, you have till next Tuesday to swing me one way or the other. Andrew, I know some of the readers of your blog have strong political views, why don't you point them my way. Of course, Washington will almost certainly go for Kerry anyway, so I guess my vote doesn't really matter. Ah, democracy! How could the middle east not want this?!?!

The Real World

It's funny that I should return to the internet for the first time in nearly two weeks with my post on The Real World. When I say that I've just now returned to the internet, I mean it; I have done nothing on the internet except check email (every several days) for the last two weeks. I just now caught up on all the blog posts, and I've got to give Andrew some serious kudos for a seriously creative idea.

Oh! The quote! That quote from so long ago was said by Whitworth's own proffesor of religion Jerry Sittser.

The quote was followed by a story about the nature of the real world. I'll relate it as best I can, but I'm sure my summary will be nowhere near as good as his version. Imagine, he said, that you were living in France during the years up to and then into the second world war. German soldiers and Nazi propaganda have become common place in your town and you no longer really think about what their presence means. Most of the people around you have assimilated into Nazi culture, or have become tolerant of it to the point that they no longer see it as an evil. Nazi occupation has become the defining aspect of the real world as they see it. It is in this framework that people lived, worked, ate, and made decisions. But imagine that you were approached by someone who told you of a movement resisting the Nazis and told you that they were working with others to try to subvert the Nazi Party. In secret you would meet with a small group in a room with the shades drawn and a lookout at the door. After waiting to make sure no one has been folowed, someone turns on a shortwave radio very softly and tunes in the BBC. You would hear news reports of the Allies taking on and overcoming Hitler, of invasions and bombing raids aimed gainst the Nazis. The real world would now be very different to you. The Nazis would no longer be the absolute of reality. You would know something more real than what the people around you know, but that knowledge could cost you your life at the hands of the establishment. Now it has become your responsibility with this knowledge to become an active member of this resistance movement which is founded on a reality more distant but more real than the ever present Nazi soldiers and propaganda.

He says this is what being a Christian is like.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to live in a time of more outright persecution. It seems like it would be easier to be serious about faith if the world were more seriously against it. But, as it stands, Christians in our culture are not blatantly persecuted. Perhaps this has contributed to our apparent spiritual apathy. Our 'real world' does not persecute us by rejecting our beliefs, but it attempts to undermine our beliefs by surrounding us with the temptation of bright, shiny things corrupted by sin. The 'real world' accepts that I want to live a simple life, but it confused when I don't persue material things for happiness. The 'real world' accepts that I believe Jesus is the only way, but doesn't understand that I don't just mean the only way for me but the only way for the entire world. The 'real world' accepts that I want to strive for sexual purity, but continues to bombard me with sexual images. This is not outright persecition in that I don't have to fear for my life when someone offers me the latest Playboy to look at, but I do have to fear for something more important: my relationship with God which is always suceptible to harm from temptation.

Let's look at reality another way. What is more real? A life of material wealth or a life of holy poverty? A lie told for personal gain or a truth told that causes personal loss? A life filled with sensuality coming from the media, clothing companies and people we sleep around with, or a committed sexual relationship with one spouse?

What is more real? What the world offers, or what God offers?

This world we live in is indeed a real world, and I don't want anyone to think that I'm in any way labling it as unimportant, but as Christians we must always be aware that while we are part of this world we are also part of another which is infinitely more real.

A Hint:

Well, the response to the last post was overwhelming, so I'll help you all narrow down your guesses by giving you a hint.

I believe this person was Andrew Seely's advisor at Whitworth.

The Real World?

"Christians need to belong to a resistance movement because they live in an alternate reality."

Guess who said that and I'll buy you a taco.

More to come on the real world along with why I love (not sarcastic) Whitworth.

The Whitworth Poster Controversy

This post is in response to Andrew's post on October 8, 2004. I think the picture used on the poster in question was inappropriate. In order to decide if something is appropriate or not, you must look at its context. The poster was publicizing a dance at a Christian school. In a straw poll of Whitworth males you would find that almost all of them struggle with issues of sexual temptation which they would like to overcome. The poster was advertising to this audience. Every source of sexual stimulus during the day effects whether a man will overcome or submit to sexual temptation. More times than I can count the road to lustful thoughts and masturbation has started with something as simple as a picture like the one on that poster. This poster is not inappropriate because it is 'un-Christian' or doesn't conform to reactionary puritanical morals, this poster is inappropriate because it contributes to the assault of a sexually permissive society on the sexual purity of Christians. For any women reading this who are tempted to say, "why don't men just get over it," I would respond that you do not understand the way male sexuality and temptation works. I do not fault you for this, even in my dating relationship with Jeni (a devoted Christian and my current wife) it took a long time an a lot of struggle before she understood the way she served as a temptation to me. Whitworth is a Christian institution and an arm of the church and therefore should not be promoting anything which compromises the spiritual life of its students.

For those of you who cling to the argument that the poster reflects 'the real world' out side of the pine cone curtain I will say this: Please do not reduce the real world to cleavage. Sex is what society wants you to focus on because it will provide you instant gratification. Sex blinds us while the sex merchants steal our money and our purity. If you want Whitworth students to be more aware of 'the real world' (which, by the way, Whitworth and the church are a part of, they do not exist in some alternate dimension) then focus on issues of civic responsibility or social justice. If being part of 'the real world' means I have to give in to the society selling me sex, then I'd rather stay behind the pine cone curtain.

I know what I'm saying isn't very cool or in synch with the cutting edge, but I feel like I need to say it. How many of the men reading this message have porn sites in their internet cache right now, or how many of you pay close attention to making sure it's regularly cleaned out? We all know the story, clear temporary internet files, delete history, delete cookies. And for the women who are reading this but not taking it seriously, I can guarantee that at least one, and probably more, of the male hands you shook today was used to masturbate in the last twenty-four hours.

You still want to be modern and on the cutting edge? Fine, keep your poster up. You may never know the temptation to sin you will cause to someone else who sees it.

Jeni is typing a post on this general subject as well right now. I don't know what she's saying but I know that I agree with it and you should read it. She is including in her post some remarks from Bill Robinson, the president of Whitworth college.

Andrew, stop trying to piss people off. Please just be yourself. Making other people angry does not make you cooler. An please do not use gratuitous profanity. You cannot pull it off. It does not make you edgy, it just makes you sound stupid. It does not prove a point, it just makes people less receptive to what you have to say.

Breaking News! Caulk Not a Substitute for Toothpaste!

Ok, so Jeni and I moved into this new apartment about a month ago, and ever since we moved in there was a tile missing in the shower. After trying to get the management to do something about it all this month, I finally gave in, went to Home Depot and bought a replacement tile (which doesn't match at all, by the way), some liquid nails, some caulk, and a caulking gun. I affixed the tile to the wall in the shower with the liquid nails which was easy enough, but then I had to caulk around the tile. I have no idea how to do this. I won't go into messy details (partially because I still haven't figured out exactly what happened) but I ended up dripping quite a decent amount of caulk into my mouth. "Blech" doesn't even begin to describe it. I got most of it out of my mouth rather quickly, but some of it had already managed to start bonding to my teeth. Once again, "blech" doesn't begin to describe this predicament. Anyone who knows me well knows that I cannot stand to have anything on my hands at all and that I need to wash my hands within two minutes of handling anything even remotely greasy. Needless to say, I wasn't too happy about the residue on my teeth. Fortunately the stuff came off with the help of my guitarist fingernails and about ten minutes of tooth brushing. So next time you're out of toothpase and see that tube of caulk you keep by your bathroom sink, don't even think about it!

No, it wasn't!

(See last post and comments)

This particular bear happened to be on a bridge in the middle of the night. (The avarage bear knows better than to hang out on bridges in the middle of the night.) While most wildlife you come across on the road quickly scurries into the underbrush, there was no such place for the bear to scurry to because of our position on the aforementioned bridge. So, being unable to remove himself from the roadway in the traditional manner, the bear instead had to run ahead of us to the end of the bridge before he could undertake the aforementioned scurrying. It just happened that this was a rather long bridge, so Jeni and I got to spend about half a minute watching this bear run down the bridge just in front of us as we followed in our car. Ta-da!

I Saw a Bear Last Weekend

Yup, I sure did.

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